Monthly Archives: February 2011

Cabin Fever?

Stuck in the house because of all that snow? With more snow expected tomorrow, some of us need a little diversion to spice up our winter hibernation. For me, baking is a way out of the winter funk. My 140 year old house on Grove Street came with a nice kitchen that has lots of room for baking.

My Dad also likes to cook and we send each other recipes that we have tried and liked. We both get inspiration from Cooks Illustrated and I still rely on books like The Joy of Cooking and the Fannie Farmer Book of Baking .  There are the family recipes handed down from my Polish Grandmother and even some recipes from my Mom like her chocolate cake with maraschino cherries and walnuts with cream cheese frosting. We just call it Mom’s Chocolate Cake. Of course I have to send Dad photos of some of my better efforts.

Glazed Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Walnuts

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

When all the baking is finished, its time for some TV.  Although we have hundreds of choices on cable, you may not want to pay for the premium channels. Today we have another choice in the form of internet streaming devices. If you have a new HDTV or Blu-ray player, you may have this service built in. For those that do not, or want more of a selection than the built in devices offer we have independent devices like the Roku or Apple TV. Being a Mac person, I have the Apple TV which is a little bigger than the size of a deck of playing cards and comes with a wireless remote. This device connects wirelessly to your internet cable service through a wireless router. You plug the HDMI cable into your TV and that’s it (It also has optical audio output to your stereo receiver). You can stream movies from Netflix, music and movies from iTunes or YouTube and view them on your big screen TV in HD. You can stream media directly from your computer or iPhone/iPod through this device. The Apple TV also has the capability to stream a slide show of your favorite images complete with music and transitions.

The Apple TV has no hard drive and does not store media, it just provides streaming capability through an interface that is familiar with those who have worked with Apple products.

The menu provides descriptions and ratings of movies along with a brief preview. A Netflix subscription for streaming media is only $7.99/month. iTunes charges for movie rentals (usually $4.99) and TV shows (.99 cents). There is no charge for Podcasts, YouTube, internet radio stations and media already stored on your computer.

Priced at just $99.00, the Apple TV is a great little device that will have you glued to your TV for hours.

Once you are recharged from all the good food and entertainment, it will be time to get back out there and shovel the snow again!

Categories: Cooking, Media, Pets, Technology

Here Comes the Sun!

The sun finally emerges on day three of Amsterdam’s snow emergency. With one day remaining of no parking on city streets, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of progress in the way of snow removal. Does Amsterdam DPW actually remove snow or do they just push it around with the plows? My four foot snow banks have grown another foot and are now taller than my hedges!

With more snow expected this weekend, there is no where to put it.  Grove Street is down to one plowed lane and there is no room for anything to park and still have enough room for traffic to pass.  I don’t feel sorry for the city snowplow drivers. They are paid well and with a declared emergency are entitled to overtime. From what I read they are even getting a free lunch from the Crystal Restaurant. I think there is a law against city employees accepting gratuities.  As the snow emergency clock ticks down, I’m not seeing any progress on my end of town!

Update: Parking ban is officially over a 6pm tonight. The problem is that there is still nowhere to park because snow removal did not happen.

Categories: Amsterdam, Photography

Snow Emergency!

Grove Street Winter Panorama

Grove Street Winter Panorama

Grove Street is a one way street that because of its location,  sees all of the emergency traffic from the Police and Fire Departments as well as ambulances responding to the East side of town. Yesterday Mayor Thane issued a citywide state of emergency which included no parking on city streets from 9PM Tuesday, February 1, 2011, until 12 Noon Friday, February 4, 2011.  I was peeved as I had just finished  shoveling out my car and sidewalks, only to find that I could not park in front of my house! I looked at the list of approved parking areas provided on The City of Amsterdam website and none were nearby

Ironically, there is a huge parking lot adjacent to the Goddess of Mercy Temple that was not plowed and another parking lot adjacent to my house that was not plowed. The later is a story in unto itself as it was a NYS sponsored DOT project for the City of Amsterdam. It is composed of four lots, two of which were somehow sold to a private individual at public auction for $400.  The City refuses to take ownership of the remaining two lots, resulting in absolutely no maintenance of either the lots themselves or the adjacent sidewalks. In the diagram below, my house is to the left of the parking lot, next to the half of the parking lot that is privately owned.

Grove Street Parking Lot

City of Amsterdam Grove Street Parking Lot

I called the City of Amsterdam Department of Public Works yesterday and requested they plow the lot so the residents of Grove Street would have a place to park. The person on the other end of the phone was polite and stated the priority were the roads and he would relay the message to the Foreman. They never came. I even tried to flag down the City plow truck as he passed down Grove Street but he just shook his head and kept on going. I shoveled out the City’s half of the parking lot myself, but it was not enough to accommodate all of the vehicles. A neighbor joined in with her son and we began shoveling out the other half of the parking lot. My neighbor called a relative with a plow who came by and finished the job.

This was an opportunity for the City to shine and help out some residents in need. It would have taken all of 10 minutes to plow this lot. Now we did not get all the snow that was predicted but we still cannot park on the street and I still have four-foot snowbanks that extend eight feet out into the roadway. Time to take some Motrin and get out there to do it all over again!

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics

Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi (aka Lucas Wang)

The spiritual leader of the World Health and Peace Organization Ziguang Shang Shi calls the shots for this organization.  Six years ago the Buddhist group bought and renovated the former Jesuit dormitory at the Auriesville Shrine where they now live. Not many people knew they were there. They travelled to warmer climates in the winter because the dormitory had no heat.The situation changed last year when the group began buying properties in this area. They bought the former Masonic Temple in Fultonville and a camp in Ephratah. The WPHO bought two abandoned Catholic churches in Amsterdam and converted them to Buddhist Temples. They bought 48 derelict properties from the city and have been working to restore them to a livable condition.  They won a bid awarded after voter approval to purchase the former Bacon School for $460,000. that was to ease our school tax burden.  Last summer, through a translator Ziguang Shang Shi told us of the grand plans he had for Amsterdam, how he wanted to build a city dedicated to peace and health. We were shown conceptual drawings projected on a screen as he described the transformation to city residents and Chinese investors at the Best Value Inn.  The WPHO held several of these informational press conferences last year as they described how the billion dollar investment would save our city.  They gave free classes so that we could learn the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma that was said to cure disease and ease pain.

All that was good, but things began to change. There was a break in at one of the Temples with the thieves getting away with some Buddha statues and copper piping. The group did not migrate this year staying here to tend to their investments. Two weeks ago another property owned by the WPHO was broken into and copper was stolen. This was an abandoned factory building and warehouse. This time Zinguang Shang Shi reacted uncharacteristically for an enlightened one of his stature. He exposed his Lucas Wang for all to see as he chastised the Mayor and Police Department for not doing enough to protect their property. He announced that the WPHO was pulling out of Amsterdam as well as the promise to buy the Bacon School.

I guess even the enlightened can throw a temper tantrum but I have to admit I was astounded by the course of events. I had faith that the group would see this project through. I attended the presentations, the classes and the religious events and really began to like this group. They were friendlier and more welcoming than anyone else I met in Amsterdam.

What happened? Are they just saving face because they don’t have the money to purchase the school or the manpower to work on all the properties? My guess is that they did too much preaching and not enough listening to learn about us. Working and living in a Sanga is similar to a monastery in that your exposure to anyone outside the group is limited. They did pick up a few American members last year but language continues to be a problem. Maybe they just miss their California winters.

I am angry with you Lucas Wang!

Categories: Amsterdam, Photography, WPHO

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: